POV: Raising Our Voices

Just over a year ago, InfoComm International's board of directors decided to allow the association to re-enter the government relations arena as a service 9/01/2006 8:00 AM Eastern

POV: Raising Our Voices

Sep 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Richard E. Reed

Just over a year ago, InfoComm International's board of directors decided to allow the association to re-enter the government relations arena as a service to its membership. As much as any industry would prefer to stay out of legislative activities so as not to subject itself to further regulation and scrutiny, to do so is an action akin to the ostrich burying its head in the sand, oblivious to the surrounding danger.

The primary goal of InfoComm's government relations program is to track legislation of importance to the industry and report back to impacted members. As an outside consultant to InfoComm, I track the introduction and progression of legislation in all 50 state legislatures. InfoComm takes this information and assembles it into a database accessible to members only on the association's website.

On occasion, InfoComm members in a particular jurisdiction need to take action to prevent a measure from getting signed into law, or to explain the impact legislation or regulation might have on a particular segment of the industry. In that event, InfoComm informs its members via email through a legislative alert system. These alerts give a summary of the situation, the action needed, and other helpful hints for getting involved.

In the past year, a few measures were introduced, which were designed to give a competitive advantage to certain industry certification programs. In contrast, InfoComm strongly supports objective testing of skills and knowledge as the basis for any state licensure or state-sanctioned certification program impacting the AV industry. Candidates can take the exam without paying for InfoComm courses, and they do not have to be members of the association.

InfoComm's members, along with other businesses in the information, transport, and security sectors, successfully defeated a measure in New Hampshire that would have created a competitive advantage for businesses with a particular certification, even though this certification would not be adequate for meeting the needs of these diverse industries and would have exempted electricians from these requirements. InfoComm is watching activity closely in all states to defeat similar legislation.

Ideally, for 21st-century jobs, the knowledge and skill of a worker should be continually renewed to keep pace with rapidly changing technology. InfoComm has the support of the industry for its certification program, with more than 5,500 holders of the Certified Technology Specialist designation. Content of InfoComm's certification program has been established specifically for the industry and its customers, and it is based on the real-world knowledge and skills needed to design, install, and service AV systems that meet the needs of their users.

InfoComm has also been certified by the National Certification Commission, and has the only program in the industry that holds this outside sanction. It is also sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs. The U.S. Department of Labor included InfoComm as the most important information resource for those looking to explore entering into an AV career in its Occupational Outlook Handbook.

InfoComm, along with the other members of the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, recently helped secure final approval of H.R. 32, the Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act. This effort was needed to stem a growing tide of counterfeiting and piracy. Counterfeiting is damaging to our economy, and we are pleased that intellectual property theft is being taken seriously by lawmakers.

InfoComm is also working with the Department of Commerce and its coordinator for the Office of International Intellectual Property as we move toward harmonizing EU/US anti-counterfeiting measures in order to have a seamless system to stop fraudulent products. In addition, InfoComm is part of a group working with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to identify and remedy problems in specific countries. We are also encouraging the U.S. Department of Justice to codify ways to strengthen our domestic laws to better equip enforcement officials charged with disbanding counterfeiting networks.

On these and other matters, InfoComm is working hard to make sure the industry is well represented in state legislatures, in Congress, and on the international stage. We look forward to your involvement as our program continues to evolve.

Richard E. Reed is an RCDD-OSP specialist and an InfoComm International government relations advisor.

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